At the tail-end of last week, I was due to interview one of The Wu Tang Clan’s most eloquent, passionate and natural vocalists, Ghostface Killah. He, along with his accompanying Theodore Unit troupe, was to appear at the Scala in Kings Cross. Because of the reported nature of the hip-hop interview, I expected some degree of being mucked about but, inexperienced noob as I am, I hadn’t planned on the epic scenes I took in. Ineptitude, deviance and violence are all major players here, and it truly is a wonder that anything gets completed by these people.
I made myself available from approximately 2pm on the day of the interview, having been told that I would be telephoned with a meeting place and time. It wasn’t until around 5pm that I was told to meet the gig promoter outside the venue at about 8pm. This, I could stomach. I had time to prepare myself, to expect the worst and read a bit of my book with a coffee. Fine. 8pm rolled around, and I met the promoter, along with one other journalist intending to interview (we’d been allocated paltry 15-minute slots) and his photographer pal. Lovely stuff. We’re told that his Lordship Ghostface is not yet inside the building, and that phone calls were being made to ascertain his whereabouts. We retire upstairs for a beer.
One of those phone calls comes, and we’re told that they’ve finally left the hotel and, because of the Scala’s apparently non-existent back door, I should be the one to stand in the stairwell to catch the entourage and snag interview information. Of course, they slip by, or go in another way, or something, but they arrive ten minutes before stage time and we get the pleasure of speaking to Ghost’s manager. A smooth-talking, quiet and polite Frenchman, he assures us that after the show will be the best time to complete an interview, and that we should head in and enjoy the show.
The other journalist decides that, British transport being what it is to the commuting population, he should get a train back the ‘burbs so that he doesn’t spend all night trying in vain to get an interview. The show itself begins triumphantly, and continues to be triumphant for a good 45 minutes. Dennis Coles stalks menacingly around the stage, tightly and efficiently brushing lyrics out as if they were grit between his teeth. The shrieks begin to go up for Wildflower, but there’s a tension of sorts brewing. Casually, almost too casually, members of Theodore Unit bring out bales of t-shirts and CDs to sell, and the music stops until at least some are bought. At £25 per t-shirt, this is a slow process, and one that generates some serious animosity amongst a skint, recession-transfixed crowd. Some boo, some leave, some shout that it’s unfair and that some music should be played. Ghost himself assures those shouting that if they continue to badmouth him and his associates, then he knows some people who can “fuck you up real good”. In a final attempt to appease the crowd, he performs an a capella Wildflower to a half empty venue.
The show continues soon after, with several Dirty Bitches joining the crew on stage. One girl in particular, as pointed out by an eagle-eyed accomplice of my photographer friend, has disappeared into the dressing room side of stage. When the door opens, she is fellating one of the support acts and stands up quickly, embarrassed. On stage, the lines between stage and floor become blurred as the venue continues to empty and the performers continue to perform. When things grind to a halt, it becomes obvious that there is a queue of women outside the dressing room waiting to see Ghost. Some take longer than others to emerge from the room again. I join the queue and attempt to attract the attention of the manager.
The door opens and slams repeatedly, we see all manner of people flying in and out of the doors, but the door with Ghost behind it remains locked. I speak to his manager, who assures me that the interview will proceed soon, and that maybe it would involve going back to the Hilton to complete it. Apparently, our man Dennis is “currently in an interview of his own”. It’s difficult to tell which girl was in there with him and for how long, but he looks tired on his emergence. People continue to mill about. I ask again about the interview. The manager assures me, again, that everything’s fine. Still more people disappear backstage for photos, autographs and blow-jobs. I ask the manager again, he reassures me again.
I ask for a final time, the venue close to total dereliction. Surely, if there was a time for an interview, this was it. The manager turns on me, all of a sudden. “Why the fuck are you still here? No fucking interview today! I already fucking told you! Why do you people not listen?!” I calmly (whilst shitting myself) explain that the interview had been sorted out a good few weeks in advance, and that I’d not be leaving without one. I was met with another similarly inane and confusing torrent, and then ejected by a very friendly security man. Leaving, I call to J-Love and Shawn Wigs on stage “thanks anyway, guys, good show”, and I’m given an embarrassingly silent response. Everyone’s a little confused. Things got ugly really quickly. Why had the gig itself descended so quickly into bizarre farce? Where’s the respect from artist to audience? Do they expect this with every act they see? Should I have offered fellatio? The answers are, very probably, pointless when considering such an unaffected performer and his bespoke industry.